Leave Lionel Messi open at your own peril.

With Argentina’s World Cup hopes in danger of taking a precarious turn, the 35-year-old superstar scored to give the Albiceleste a 1-0 lead over Mexico in their second Group C game.

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Lionel Messi provides pivotal World Cup goal, assist as Argentina avoids disaster

Lionel Messi celebrates after giving Argentina the lead.

Getty Images

Lionel Messi provides pivotal World Cup goal, assist as Argentina avoids disaster

Argentina scores in the second half.

AFP via Getty Images

Lionel Messi provides pivotal World Cup goal, assist as Argentina avoids disaster

Lionel Messi is mobbed by teammates after his goal.

REUTERS

In the 64th minute, Messi collected the ball well-outside Mexico’s box. Curiously left open in space by the Mexican defense, Messi was able to take a touch onto his favored left foot and unleash a low-driven shot perfectly placed into the bottom-right corner. It was his 93rd-career international goal and eighth in a World Cup, and could prove pivotal for Argentina.

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In their Group C opener, Argentina stunningly lost to Saudi Arabia 2-1 in one of the World Cup’s biggest-ever upsets. It set up a virtual must-win game against Mexico, as a loss would have eliminated Argentina from the tournament. Tied 0-0 before Messi’s goal, a draw would have left Argentina needing a miracle in their last group stage game to advance to the knockout round.

MESSI 😱😱😱
Argentina takes the lead vs Mexico! 🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/iqDUyzzxlx

— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 26, 2022

In the 87th minute, Messi then assisted Enzo Fernandez to give Argentina a 2-0 lead, sending them into second place in the group heading into the last game before the knockout round. Fernandez received Messi’s pass on the left side of the box and uncorked a rocket past Mexican goalie Guillermo Ochoa.

Argentina faces Poland on Wednesday.

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